Let me start this story at the end. Our little man Luca is home and healthy. So after a rough beginning life is good.
My son Luca was diagnosed with a birth defect called gastroschisis at 14 weeks. This meant that his intestines were growing on the outside of his body. For this reason my pregnancy was closely monitored and my birth was different to how I initially expected it to be. Here it is:
I started getting contractions every five minutes on Tuesday night after having my first steroid injection that afternoon. He’d also stopped moving around so much and I had a show. So off we went to the hospital. My obstetrician admitted me after 4 hours of observation in birth suite. I was continuing to contract but not enough to allow dilation. After continuing to contract all day Wednesday and all night I was exhausted. After dilating to 3 cms by Thursday morning my obstetrician decided to help things along and at 1030 they broke my waters, started the drip and gave me an Epidural. The Epidural allowed me to relax and let the Cyntocin do its job more effectively. At 1630 my obstetrician arrived and was preparing to settle in for a long night but after examining me I was fully dilated and contractions were coming 5 in 10 mins.
After about four rounds of pushes and 3 really good pushes out came Luca. He let out the littlest cry and then the NICU team took him away. I burst into tears and just kept saying ‘I had a baby!’ Kyle (my husband) stayed with Luca and I got stitched up (2nd degree tear). They didn’t ever bring Luca back because he needed a lot of suctioning and assistance breathing. Kyle came back about half an hour later and said that they were intubating him and getting him ready for theater. He had a photo that one of the nurses took of Luca. This was the first time I had actually looked at him. Our surgeon was confident he could manually reduce the bowel back into his abdomen that night. I quickly had my Epidural removed and they took me upstairs to sign paperwork and see him before they took him away again. The surgeon predicted that they would be in theater for half an hour to 45 minutes and so Kyle went with Luca and I went to bed. After a stressful two and a half hours for Kyle the surgeon emerged and informed him that everything hadn’t gone according to plan.
The bowel was in worst condition than they had first thought – it was quite matted and dilated. They initially had managed to reduce all the bowel and close his abdomen but once they did he became very distressed and his breathing was compromised. They decided to relieve the pressure on his lungs by reopening the abdo wall but leaving the bowel inside. So Luca had an open wound about the size of a 50 cent piece which on his 5 lbs 12 oz body looked huge. Kyle then came back to tell me and we waited for a call from ICU to say he was settled and that we could visit. That phone call took forever. We later found out that when Luca arrived back on the ward he was doing badly. He need a lot of help breathing – almost complete assistance. His blood pressure was dangerously low and he wasn’t making an urine. They pumped him full of fluids, commenced dopamine to get the blood moving around his body and put him on a high level of ventilation which meant his whole body vibrated. We got a phone call in the early hours of the morning saying he was stable enough to visit. When Kyle wheeled me in I remember thinking that he looked so little and so sick. I held his little hand and burst into tears and then promptly fainted. Oh so glamorous. He got better each day and the surgeon tells us that, even though Luca will get a hernia that will mean he needs surgery again when he’s two, he did really well. He said that his little body simply went into shock after all his bowel went back in.
Luca was in hospital for 6 weeks. There was something to celebrate almost everyday. First hugs, breathing without assistance, first poos (which we celebrated by eating chocolate ice-cream of course on account of it being brown). Life as a NICU parent was tough but the Mater Mothers hospital in Brisbane was amazing. I can never thank my obstetrician Dr. Brad Robinson, Luca’s neonatologist Dr. Peter Gray, his surgeon Dr. Chris Burke and his nurses enough. Especially the incredible nurse who took care of him that first night. She fought so hard to keep him alive and I’ll always be grateful.
If you are reading this as a NICU parent or as a parent of a gastroschisis baby remember these things:
2. Celebrate the little things.
3. While you may not have the same kodak moments that non-NICU parents get – take a million photos anyway. You’ll look back and realize they were all kodak moments.
4. It’s okay not to be brave all the time.
Briar, Kyle and Luca